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Welcome to our Expedition exploring the Sermon on the Mount together. These weekly Expedition Notes are intended to enhance our experience together on this journey. So, grab a Bible, a journal or a notebook and let's dive into this amazing study about living life as God's people, part of His kingdom.
following Sunday, May 7, 2017 message: Worryblind
Thursday, May 11, 2017
Day 4: Insights from James
Jesus' brother, James, led the church in Jerusalem alongside the 12 apostles for three decades following Jesus' resurrection and ascension to heaven. In the end, He was martyred for his faith around 62 AD. But during this time, he was a central figure in the life of the Church and was often seen as the "go to" person for issues of great importance.
When we think of the book written by James, however, we tend to think of a kind of "second tier" book behind the important ones like the gospels, Romans, Ephesians, Revelation. This is partly because it is shorter and sits in the back of the New Testament buried in a flurry of other short books like 3rd John and Jude. We also think this way because of our heritage as Protestant Christians. When Martin Luther began his Reformation, he seriously considered throwing James out of the New Testament because it seemed to conflict with the message of justification by faith alone. (There is no real conflict, but at the time it seemed like a big deal to Luther.)
But James is actually packed with important teaching and theology that you don't find spelled out as succinctly anywhere else in the New Testament! (We can be glad that Martin didn't get his way on that one.) It also takes us many of the themes found in the Sermon on the Mount, to the point that some have called it a kind of early commentary on the Sermon. It does seem that the issues that Jesus was addressing in the Sermon carried over into the first decades of the early Church. And it makes sense that James, who was writing primarily to the Jewish Christians of that era, would take up many of the same themes as Matthew, who was writing to the same basic audience. The comparison of these two authors provides a unique look from two perspectives on the challenges of the early Jewish Christian Church.
One of the themes that comes through clearly in the book of James is the issue of pursuing wealth, pursuing the wealthy and how both of these can cause you to fail to treat others with the respect and love that God expects. Look at these passages in James and think about how they compare with the central sections of the Sermon we have been looking at:
Also take a look at these passages with a similar theme, just not as direct:
Practice looking for those who have none of the traits that you are normally attracted to and blinded by. If you usually look for the extroverted and energetic, take time to talk to the introverted and laid back. If you are typically drawn to the flashy and high fashion, become a friend (who listens, not just give fashion advice) to the wall flower. Get better at this kind of inverse seeing to start to identify the "log in your eye" that keeps you from serving and helping others.